Office-Using Employment for January Fails to Impress

Economic Pulse
February 11, 2014
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Despite revisions that boosted total employment in prior months, January’s payroll gain of +113,000 was well below the +194,000 average monthly increase posted in 2013. Employment in the office-using segment rose by +34,000 (Table 1 and Chart 1 below), but the increase was only slightly more than half the average monthly gain in the prior 12 months.

Table 1

Information sector jobs were unchanged (a loss of more than -10,000 jobs in Telecommunications more than offset a +4,000 job gain in Data Processing and Other Information Services jobs) while jobs in Financial Activities fell by -2,000. (As but one example, the tally of Commercial Banking jobs has fallen for the last 12 consecutive months.)

Payrolls in the Professional/Business Services sectors rose by +36,000, rebounding from a single-digit gain in December.Accounting and Bookkeeping Services jobs failed to notably improve in January, adding just +5,000 jobs on the monthafter a December loss of -25,000 was revised to show an even greater decline of -32,000.

Table 1

On balance, private sector job gains of +142,000 represented an improvement from December’s dismal +89,000 increase. However, nearly 1/3 of the increase stemmed from the addition of +48,000 jobs in construction, which may have reflected a weather-related reversal of -22,000 construction jobs lost in December. Even so, January’s poor weather does not appear to explain the lack of momentum in job gains for the start of the year (Chart 2 below); the count of Household employees who did not work due to bad weather in January is in line with the non seasonally-adjusted data for the same month in previous years.

While the regional data lag the national data by a full month (and may be subject to revision), the Studley markets with the greatest percentage changes in office employment on a month-over-month basis between November 2013 and December 2013 include: Raleigh (+0.9%), San Francisco (+0.6%) and Santa Ana/Orange County (+0.6%) as market leaders, and Philadelphia (-0.8%), Los Angeles (-0.8%) and Tampa (-0.7%) as market laggards. Note that U.S. office employment for November 2013 to December 2013 originally showed a +0.04% gain, which was revised to -0.01% with Friday’s report.

Table 1